Sit Down With Neil Young
When Neil offered to meet with me last week it was sort of like I had written a blog about how I like epic movies and then I got an email from Peter Jackson offering to meet with me. Basically, it was really cool :) So I was looking forward to meeting Neil and seeing what it was we would talk about.
Who Are You, Who Are Any Of Us?
There was no open position we were meeting to talk about–I was just looking for advice and I was excited to be talking to someone who really knows his stuff. Neil opened by saying he dug my blog and appreciated my interest in EA and thats why he offered to meet me. And then he hit me with the threes (of death): what are your three all-time favorite: games, books, songs, movies? Heres how I recall answering:
- games: Half-Life, Pacman, System Shock 2
- books: LOTR, The Tipping Point, Managing Brand Equity (I was feeling a bit like a business dork as I realized most of the books I read these days are biz books)
- songs: Bachs Passacaglia in C minor, Hows It Going To Be by Third Eye Blind, and a jazz song I couldnt recall at the time (Where Breathing Starts by Tord Gustavsen) movies: Amelie, Casablanca, The Matrix
I hope I did ok on the personality test. At least it wasnt the Myers-Briggs. ;)
How Neil Got Here
I asked about how he got his start in the industry–hes been a coder his whole life starting with the Atari 400 (I started on the Atari 800, but he was way more advanced than I). He got into production after shipping a couple games and hes been there ever since. He quit college early to pursue his true calling, it looks to me like he made the right choice. He had asked me earlier whether I had a Masters degree and then why not? I said I havent had a reason to get one. Heh. One of these days I really have to ask Neil what hes trying to get a sense of with these questions. I couldnt read much from his poker face. :)
Some Industry Talk
“What distinguishes an outstanding producer from an ok one?” I asked. I want to become an outstanding producer, I explained, and I’m trying to figure out not only a way to get started in the industry, not just a path to becoming a producer, but a path to becoming a really good producer. I’m trying to figure out what I need to learn and how I can learn it. Neil told me that I will have to discover whether I’m a natural for production–not everyone can be Michael Jordan regardless of how hard they try, but if I happen to have the right personality and I build up the experience I need, here are the attributes that would complete the package:
- clarity of vision
- ability to communicate
- unending energy
- good design skills and a recognition that they arent great skills
- solid grasp of the technology so you can advocate for innovations effectively, when its appropriate
- always see room for improvement in my work
- be the kind of person that inspires hard work and loyalty
I asked him about why Purple Moon didnt work out and why Homeworld didnt do well (it was interesting to hear how his take on it was similar to Craig Alexanders, yet they explained it in a different way). Then we talked about what its like to work at EA, and how the Producer and the DD are different. We talked about a whole lot more and I got a lot out of it. I could have gone on asking questions for hours but I didnt want to monopolize Neils time. Well I do, but it wouldnt be nice. :) Id love the chance to ask him more stuff…I can tell that he has a lot of the answers I havent been able to find in books and articles on the industry.
Thats All Folks
I got the impression that Neil shares a similar love of mixing games, technology, and business as I do. When he was telling me about how he loves a strong story line, good sound that supports a sense of immersion, and good characters I kept thinking that he took the words right out of my mouth. And then hes telling me about how he likes to make money by making games, I thought again, exactly. I’m really looking forward to working with a company that has people like Neil at the helm–I’m going to make sure to stay in touch.
Towards the end of our conversation I ask who else Neil thought I should try to meet at EA and he suggested David De Martini, Bing Gordon (the CCO and a cofounder), and Chris Plumber (who beat down the door to get into Origin and whom exemplifies the producer with unending energy). I’ll be in LA next week and Chris works down there–I’ll get in touch with him first. And hopefully the others soon!
Updated on October 6th, 2013
Some of the links were broken. I replaced them with working links to pages with the same or similar content as before.